jeudi 21 mai 2009

Loyola has had a World Religions course for 25 years

Paul Donovan, principal of Loyola High School, explains why his school was surprized that it was not allowed to teach its World religion course:
"The high school taught the course long before it became popular to do so.

Over the last few months there has been a barrage of editorials and opinion pieces regarding the government's Ethics and Religious Culture program. What has greatly fascinated me is reading the opinions of others about what we do at Loyola High School and what our motivations are for the upcoming court case. None of those who have written against Loyola's stance has called to speak with us and hear firsthand what our position actually is; they have simply presumed that they know what we are about. Michael Schleifer's article ("Québec' ethics and religion course is worth defending," Opinion, May 19) is a perfect example. It is especially intriguing given that a major part of the ERC is supposed to be about dialogue, the recognition of others and tolerance of different values and perspectives. I thought it might be enlightening if I outlined Loyola's position. World Religions has been a course at Loyola for well over 25 years and mandatory for the last 12; we made the decision that no student should graduate from Loyola without a healthy knowledge and respect for other religions. We made this decision long before it was a popular thing to do, as it is completely in keeping with our educational philosophy. Every ethical issue and the variety of positions outlined in ERC has been a part of our program for as long as I can remember (which includes my time as a student). I would argue that by the time our students graduate, they are able to write any test on world religions or ethics that the ministry would like to create. So what is our issue with the program.

Before answering, I would like to point out that we have studied the entire program; at least six different series of texts proposed for use with the program and have studied the philosophy behind it as described by Georges Leroux and Denis Watters. While no one would suggest that the proposed goals of the program – pursuit of the common good and the recognition of others – are anything but worthy, does the worth of the goals automatically mean that this particular program will accomplish them? Are we not permitted to ask that question without being labeled "fanatics or extremists"? So much for tolerant dialogue. We actually have far more experience with teaching and implementing programs like these than the ministry or any of the philosophers who have devised the ERC. Our request to the Ministry of Education was simply to allow us to teach all of the competencies, content and goals of the program using a structure and methodology that is more in keeping with our Jesuit and Catholic identity. We were informed that these things cannot be taught "according to ministerial expectation" in a Catholic context. Our question to the courts, since the ministry would not talk with us, is quite simply, "Why not?" If, as Schleifer so proudly points out, the values and ideals of the program are universal, then surely we can explore them as Catholics. Did Martin Luther King put aside his Baptist Christian roots to stand up for civil rights or did his stand flow out of his beliefs? Did Gandhi put aside his Hinduism to pursue non-violence in a secular way or did his philosophy flow from his spirituality? The common good is not secular; it is common. Can we not pursue these things from within our own traditions and beliefs or do we all need to become secularists first? Does the ERC's vision of pluralism mean that we must all think in the same reductionist way or can we all explore and contribute to the common good from the uniqueness and beauty in the diversity of our beliefs? If this is an extremist or fanatical position then I must not understand the terms."

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